Cloud-Based National Parcel Layer Grants Users Access to Greater Detail

Thanks to online national parcel layer content services, geospatial analysis is getting increasingly granular. In the past, the smallest analytical unit for a demographic map was a census block, which, in the United States, typically consists of about 1,000 households. In a national parcel layer, however, the smallest analytical unit is a single parcel containing one household. Thus, a national parcel layer offers 1,000 times more resolution—on demographic patterns, population density, home sale prices, income levels, and more—than a census block layer.

When it comes to getting a return on investment in using a national parcel layer, it’s still early. Some argue that there is so much to learn about how to use the many attributes linked to parcel boundaries that, 30 years from now, it will still be early.

ParcelAtlas coverage
ParcelAtlas contains more than 99 percent of all available boundaries in the United States and has seamless attribute data coverage.

There is something new on the scene, though: ParcelAtlas FEATURES, a cloud-based cadastral content service in which the whole database, with its 151 million parcels across 2,900 US counties, performs as though the entire nation is a single geodatabase. When a user enters an address on a map, the map zooms to that location, and the geospatial data for the area around that address is fully actionable, with only the parcels visible on the screen being activated.

Codeveloped by Esri partner Team Augmented Reality, Inc., and Boundary Solutions, Inc. (BSI), ParcelAtlas is hosted entirely within ArcGIS Online and is available in ArcGIS Marketplace. The subscription-based service deploys digital parcel map content directly to ArcGIS Online for use in ArcGIS Pro, ArcMap, and other ArcGIS technology. It can also be incorporated into non-Esri products via REST services. BSI makes its best efforts to keep every county’s data current to within a year and updates attributes quarterly.

Having up-to-date parcel layers available for easy use in ArcGIS Online is not only convenient, but it also fundamentally improves the analysis and data services that can be generated using this data. Now, users don’t need to download a national parcel layer content service, mount it, monitor it, and keep it current themselves. Rather, they can just log in to ParcelAtlas to access and use BSI’s always-up-to-date national parcel layer content service, and then wherever they need to go on a map, live data is there.

Accurate, Complete, and Accessible

Since Roman times, the cadastre (i.e., a parcel map and its attributes) has defined the legal, physical, and cultural characteristics of land in service of two main missions—first, to collect taxes, and second, to define ownership. Throughout the centuries, multipurpose cadastre operations have had to meet three requirements: accuracy, completeness, and accessibility.

Regarding accuracy, ParcelAtlas’ metadata includes 18 different metrics that inform subscribers of the data’s qualities and characteristics. ParcelAtlas is also about as complete as it gets, with more than 99 percent of all boundaries available for the United States, along with seamless attribute data coverage. Accessibility is where ParcelAtlas really changes the game, though. In addition to making traditional REST deployment viable, ParcelAtlas delivers fully functional live data on-screen and enables offline data sharing via a Web Feature Service (WFS).

Walkable parcels
Using ParcelAtlas, local governments and developers can figure out a community’s walkability and transit scores. On this map, gray parcels are not walkable; green parcels are slightly walkable; and orange and red parcels are highly walkable.
Where live-work housing should be
This map shows where live-work housing should be, with pink indicating residential parcels and blue representing the destinations that visitors can walk to.
Residential parcels' proximity to transit stops
This map helps users determine residential parcels’ proximity to transit stops (the dots) that would require only up to a 30-minute commute (in blue) to areas with a considerable number of jobs.

Even though ParcelAtlas is a national parcel layer, users can selectively turn content on or off to tailor its coverage to match their exact needs. Subscriptions are either quarterly or annual, and users can select which part(s) of the country they want access to and how many users they want to register. Additionally, subscribers can choose whether to access IN STOCK parcels only, which consists of 122 million parcels for 1,800 counties across the United States, or expand coverage with IN STOCK ADD, which augments coverage by 29 million more parcels and 1,100 counties.

Apply ParcelAtlas for Emergency Management, Climate Change, and More

The uses for ParcelAtlas are myriad and varied. The following are just some examples of the many ways in which this service can be applied:

Get Started with ParcelAtlas

Esri users can explore ParcelAtlas by subscribing to the ParcelAtlas FREE layer in ArcGIS Marketplace. This introductory service contains parcel data for six Massachusetts counties, all composed of two bundled layers: a fast-tiled layer for zoomed-out use and a full feature layer for when zoomed in. From there, users can upgrade to the ParcelAtlas FEATURES subscription or the REST Service subscription, used for making custom apps.

About the author

Dennis H. Klein

Dennis H. Klein, GISP, PE, is the president and CEO of Boundary Solutions, Inc. (BIS). He has a bachelor’s of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Transportation Studies. He spent the 1970s building pin-registered Mylar-on-light-table land information systems before turning to GIS in the 1980s when he founded Facility Mapping Systems, an AutoCAD-based municipal GIS. He has been involved in GIS full time ever since. Klein founded BSI in 2001.